At the moment, at least 240 Cruise cars roam around San Francisco, causing all sorts of problems.
Robotaxi rebels are putting cones on the self-driving cars around San Francisco, disabling them. Frankly, we’re obsessed with this act of guerilla protesting. We, too, hope it continues on gaining traction… despite Waymo coming out and calling it “vandalism.”
Whatever. Thank u, next.
Safe Street Rebel announced “Week of Cone” on Twitter earlier this week in response to increasing frustration with self-driving cars and an upcoming California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) meeting that’s expected to approve the expansion of both Cruise’s and Waymo’s autonomous vehicle passenger service deployments in SF. That meeting could also see the introduction of passenger charges — which would fast-track more widespread adoption. (As of publishing, the fiscal foundation for many of these AV [autonomous vehicle] tech companies, i.e. Waymo and Cruise, come from healthy venture capital funding; the products and services produced from these companies, on their own, are not even close to profitable.)
There’s a lot of noise and conversation around self-driving cars. It’s incredibly easy to get lost in the racket — especially if you’re living outside of the SF Bay Area.
But that’s when this lovely, digestible TikTok from Safe Street Rebel comes in, helping to make sense of the outrage.
Welcome to Week of Cone
On Thurs 7/13, the CPUC will vote to expand AVs in SF. Cruise & Waymo promise they’ll reduce traffic & collisions, but we know that’s not true. They block busses & emergency vehicles, create more traffic, and are a surveillance nightmare.
But there’s hope pic.twitter.com/K7e0C2nhuq
— ConeSF – Week of Cone (@SafeStreetRebel) July 5, 2023
“So, what’s the deal with the self-driving cars all over SF,” the seventy-three-second video begins, expanding on the promises the companies reasonable for these cars herald — “reduce traffic and collisions.”
The utopian upsides Cruise and others assured haven’t exactly come to fruition yet. In San Francisco alone, where hundreds of self-driving cars navigate (the majority of them owned and operated by Cruise), the presence of these cars is bemoaned. And for good reason.
The TikTok goes on to show robotaxis blocking construction workers from doing their jobs, stalling at crosswalks, nearly striking Muni buses, and more. What the video also so expertly points out is that robotaxis are inherently designed to work with roads designed around cars, not public transport. In a city with one of the most robust public transport networks in the country, it’s an inherent problem that’s unfixable.
This video from Reddit shows a behavior we experience *often* with AVs in our neighborhood. This is not a legal maneuver and a driver could be cited for breaking CVC 21950 "Failure to Yield" if they did the same thing. pic.twitter.com/8aqAusKs83
— Parker Day (@desertflyer) July 7, 2023
Aside from the logistical and pragmatic headaches around robotaxis in their current forms, they’re also deadly, as the video pointed out.
Literally. Like, actually.
San Francisco recorded its largest mass shooting in almost 30 years last month, involving at least eight people, all of whom have since recovered. But while emergency crews were responding to the shooting, a self-driving Cruise vehicle temporarily blocked police and paramedics from properly accessing the scene. By the time a Cruise employee became aware of the crisis, it then took half an hour for someone with the company to arrive at the car, and move it out of the crime scene. Those are precious minutes that could well mean the difference between life and death for someone suffering from a severe injury.
On top of this, reports of pets being stuck and killed by passing robotaxis continue piling up.
The TikTok by Safe Street Rebel also makes one thing glaring clear: The introduction of robotaxis in SF is a money grab, first and foremost.
“[Self-driving cars] exist only for profit-driven companies to stay dominant and make it harder to say afloat,” the video explains. It’s a fact that reads uncomfortably true amid state funding being pulled from many regional public transit agencies, like BART and SFMTA.
The feeling after coning a robotaxi: pic.twitter.com/VOsb4DFIXh
— Underscore_SF (@Underscore_SF) July 7, 2023
The newfound ubiquity of AI and self-driving cars aren’t going away; both will only grow in prominence as time and iterations go on. But what we can do is push for the companies and legislative bodies responsible for green-lighting these adoptions to do so responsibly. Soundly. With community input. Putting a focus on collective humanity, not private profitability.
Robotaxis aren’t ready for their spotlight yet… that’s for damn sure. So the fact that we can disable them with a simple traffic cone does sound poetically fitting.